How ready are you to start a business?

This is the second in a series of columns that provides helpful business topics for new small businesses. It is based on one of SCORE’s recent projects developed with the help of and in partnership with FedEx. This project is called “Startup Roadmap” and outlines every step in starting a business. A SCORE mentor will use this program to help you reach your goal smoothly.

Does the thought of being your own boss make your heart beat faster? Whether you dream of founding the next McDonald’s, starting a family business to pass on to your children, or simply making a comfortable living doing something you love, it’s never been easier to start a business than it is today.

You don’t need an office — you can work from home and use technology to serve clients across the country. You don’t need an expensive brick-and-mortar store — you can set up a website and sell your products all over the world. You don’t need a massive advertising and marketing budget — you can use social media and search engine optimization to attract customers on a shoestring. You don’t need employees — you can hire independent contractors as needed and grow a thriving business all on your own.

As you begin your entrepreneurial journey, let us consider some key elements to lay the groundwork for success. Here are five important steps.

Step 1: Determine “The why”

Why do you want to start a business? Why do you think now is the time to do it? Why do you want to pursue your specific idea? Answering these questions will help you feel confident that you are starting a business for the right reasons. That is the confidence you’ll need when you are living through the ups and downs, hard work, and long hours of a startup entrepreneur’s life.

There are good reasons to start a business, and there are not-so-good reasons. If you’ve dreamed of starting a business ever since you ran a lemonade stand at age 6, that’s probably a good reason to start a business. If you had an argument with your boss on Friday morning and decided Friday afternoon that you want to start your own business, that’s not such a good reason.

Step 2: Assess your personal readiness, skills and experience

Do you know what it takes to be a business owner? Do you have the skills, perseverance, and resilience required? Running a small business is challenging, and it’s important to know exactly what you’re getting into. I have found that successful entrepreneurs have several things in common:

· They can identify opportunities.

· They are willing to take risks.

· They are comfortable making decisions.

· They wear many hats.

· They like people.

· They work hard.

· They persevere.

Step 3: Assess your personal finances

You’re feeling good about your motivations for starting a business and confident in your skills and capabilities. Now it’s time to get real about your personal finances. Many businesses fail because they run out of money — it’s that simple. Knowing how much money you have to work with will help you avoid this common trap.

Step 4: Set your personal goals

Deciding what you want to achieve from your business will help you develop a roadmap that gets you to those goals. As the saying goes: “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll never get there.”

Think about what you want from your business. Do you want to get rich? Do you want to replace your current salary with income from a business? Do you want to build your business, sell it, and start another one because you have got so many great ideas you want to bring to life?

Step 5: Identify and prepare your support system

Even if you’re starting a business on your own, entrepreneurship is never a solo venture. In order to maintain the enthusiasm and stamina you need to make your startup a success, you’ll need a strong support system behind you. Do you have one?

Think about the people in your life who can inspire you and cheer you on. Maybe it’s your spouse, your best friend, or your parents. There might also be people you know in a work capacity, such as a former boss or a local attorney, who are willing to serve as a sounding board. Your SCORE mentor is a big part of your support system, of course; he or she can also introduce you to other advisers who’ll become part of your support network.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE chapter chairman, district director and regional vice president for the North West Region.

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